Ensemble presents interactive performance ‘Islam Under Siege’

Posted 11/29/16

“Islam Under Siege: From Phobia to Friendship” is an interactive theater performance and community dialogue featuring the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble.

Continuing its long-term commitment …

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Ensemble presents interactive performance ‘Islam Under Siege’

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“Islam Under Siege: From Phobia to Friendship” is an interactive theater performance and community dialogue featuring the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble.

Continuing its long-term commitment to social justice and honest dialogues on race, religion and other societal divides, the Mandala Center for Change, in association with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Quimper Unitarian Universalistic Fellowship (QUUF), sponsors two Poetic Justice Theatre performances next week.

Performances are at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6 at St. Paul’s parish hall, 1020 Jefferson St.; and at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7 at QUUF’s hall, 2333 San Juan Ave. Admission is free with donations welcome.

“Islam Under Siege” is a response to recent articles in the local newspapers regarding controversial statements about Muslims on Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Stanko’s personal Facebook page (now closed), said event organizers.

It also draws attention to what organizers contend is a growing fear of Muslims around the U.S.

The theatrical dialogue explores thoughts and feelings that come up regarding Islam, race, intention versus impact and how to be a more effective ally, said organizers.

Islamophobia has both religious and racial overtones and directly impacts many people, regardless of religious affiliation, according to the organization’s press release.

“As an Iranian-American woman with a Middle Eastern name, many people automatically assume I’m Muslim, which I am not,” said Zhaleh Almaee, codirector of the Mandala Center and member of Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble. “I have been expected to answer questions and represent Islam, fielded people’s upset with the Middle East, and have been the direct target of bigotry and hate speech towards me and my family.”

Local Christian communities are actively standing up in support Muslims, sometimes hosting dialogues to increase public awareness, according to the press release.

“There is much to learn about Islam and about our own fears,” said the Rev. Diane Andrews of Port Townsend’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, one of the event sponsors.

“Believing that we are called to respect the dignity of every human being means that we dare really to see ‘the stranger,’ that we may be ‘strangers no more’ and walk together in the ways of peace,” Andrews said.

As interpreted by the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble, audience stories, struggles and ideas are to be brought to life through physical imagery and improvisation.

The audience is to be invited onstage in order to actively explore solutions to the complex questions raised.

“This event is for anyone who cares about people. It is also an opportunity for all of us to self-reflect and consider where we might have deeply rooted prejudices that are hurtful, perhaps even dangerous to others,” said Marc Weinblatt, Poetic Justice founder.

“Even in progressive, socially conscious Port Townsend, there is so much more we can do to make this a safe and healthy community for all people.”

Paul Rice, a businessperson in Port Townsend, said, “Few people want to celebrate racism and bigotry. But sometimes the greater danger can occur with people who may not have any idea they have animosity for people who are different than themselves. We all need to do that work.”

Now in its 16th season, Port Townsend’s Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble is a multi-ethnic, multigenerational (currently ages 14-76) troupe of local actor/activists that uses interactive theater as a tool for awareness and social change.

The approach is based on the Theatre of the Oppressed work of Brazilian Augusto Boal, and Playback Theatre, developed by Americans Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas. These techniques are used all over the world for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy and government legislation, according to a press release.

A program of the Mandala Center for Change, the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble was developed as a local community resource to stimulate deep dialogue and invite positive action toward the creation of a more just and joyous world for all people.

For more information about this event or Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble, contact the Mandala Center for Change at 344-3435 or visit

mandalaforchange.com.

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